Will Texas offer one year of health insurance for new moms on Medicaid? Here’s what we know

Texas is poised to offer a full year of health insurance to new moms on Medicaid, an effort that maternal health advocates have urged for years.

The proposed legislation, House Bill 12, was still being negotiated by the House and Senate as of Friday, just days before the legislative session ends on Monday. There is immense pressure for the lawmakers to get the bill passed: Texas politicians have outlined giving new moms more time on Medicaid after birth as a top priority.

Medicaid is the joint federal and state health insurance program, best known for paying for health care for people with disabilities or who are poor, or both. In Texas, few adults qualify for the program. One exception is those who are pregnant: During their pregnancy, a Texan making about $30,000 a year or less qualify for Medicaid during their pregnancy and for their childbirth.

In Texas, Medicaid pays for about half of all births annually, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In Tarrant County, that means about 10,000 births are paid for by the joint federal and state program each year.

Previously, new moms were removed from Medicaid about two months after they gave birth. In 2021, Texas legislators gave moms six months to keep their health insurance, a move that maternal health advocates welcomed but said still wasn’t enough time for women to recover from childbirth and to prevent injuries and deaths.

Tabitha Israel, a doula and student midwife in Tarrant County, said moms need more support across pregnancy and the postpartum period, and that increased access to care is much needed.

“You get more recovery and more therapy with a knee surgery than you do with a cesarean,” said Israel, who herself has had three C-sections.

Israel said that a childbirth without any issues requires months for the body to fully heal, and pregnancies with complications require even longer.

Maternal mortality remains a persistent problem across Texas. The most recent data, examining cases of maternal death and illness from 2018 and 2019, found that the rate of serious complication during childbirth has actually increased over the last decade.

The report, which was published in December, again recommended extending health coverage for a full year after pregnancy.

Despite the expected extension of postpartum Medicaid for new moms, Texas lawmakers made no movement toward expanding Medicaid so that more adults could qualify for health insurance through the program. Texas, which has the highest rate of uninsured residents in the nation, is one of just 11 states that has not expanded Medicaid.

A group of public health and progressive policy groups in the state faulted lawmakers for failing to consider Medicaid expansion for another session.

“Our state leaders continue to do everything they can to avoid having a conversation about all the ways Texas would benefit from Medicaid expansion, perhaps because they’re afraid Texans will see just how negligent they have been,” said Adrienne Lloyd, health policy manager at Children’s Defense Fund-Texas.